Completing the nation-building
There was a sensible input to
the current public discussion on the 13th amendment, devolution
and kindred matters, from Deputy Economic Development Minister
Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene in the form of a comment recently that
what is most important at present is to convince those living in
the Northern and Eastern Provinces that they too are citizens of
this country and are entitled to live in it in peace and harmony
with the rest of its citizenry. This is, indeed, a crucial task
in contemporary Sri Lanka and it goes to the very heart of what
is described as nation-building.
In fact, our problems had their roots in this impression
among some in the North-East in particular, that they are aliens
in the land of their birth. It is not the case that they had
some sort of inborn tendency to favour separatist inclinations
and connected ideologies.
It is simply that they were given the impression, regardless
of whether this notion had a basis in fact or not, that they
were not really wanted in this country. Therefore, the challenge
before the state and the public of this country is to convince
these persons with a feeling of being outsiders here, that they
are very much needed in Sri Lanka and that they could live among
the rest of the citizenry in harmony and with the ability to
meet their every legitimate need.
Creating this feeling of togetherness is the essence of
nation-building. We could not be said to be a nation if this
feeling of community and unity is not present among every
segment of our population.
Therefore, the challenge of nation-building is continuing to
confront us and we could say that current issues at the heart of
public debate and discussion, such as the 13th amendment and
devolution, would not stubbornly persist if the nation-building
process had been taken to its logical conclusion. Accordingly,
creating this sense of togetherness and community is a principal
challenge facing Sri Lanka. We could say that this is very
important business from the past which is yet to be completed.
The state bears principal responsibility for seeing this
process through. It has to establish the material and other
conditions in this country that would enable every man, woman
and child to identify with Sri Lanka very closely and consider
this country and none other their home. However, it is not only
the state that must shoulder this responsibility. It is a task
for the entirety of our body-politic.
All right-thinking persons and groups should believe it
incumbent on them to help the state in establishing on a firm
foundation in this country, conditions that could lead to
equality in all its dimensions. Nothing short of this could help
in the all-important task of nation-building.
We need to stress the above because sections of the political
Opposition are yet to come to a realization, seemingly, of the
magnitude of the nation-building process.
Sections among the Opposition, for instance, have endeavoured
to show that the content of the LLRC report is in tune with
their thinking on the issues facing our communities, but they
fail to realize that the LLRC report is essentially all about
reconciliation and that if the Opposition ceases to play
politics over the report and helps in the nation-building task
it would be serving the cause of a united Sri Lanka.
As we see it, the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) is a
sound mechanism for speeding-up the nation-building process,
provided it works in accordance with a definite time frame and
targets carefully thought out results that could help ease the
grievances of our communities. We need a collaborative effort in
the direction of reconciliation and unity.
Accordingly, parties such as the UNP and the TNA would only
be serving destructive purposes by not co-operating with the
government in its efforts to bring complete normalcy and social
stability to this country.
Instead of taking Sri Lanka’s issues to the international
community, sections of which have an axe or more to grind with
Sri Lanka, they should consider as supreme the legitimate
interests of this country.
They must get down to talking seriously on these issues with
the state and shunt aside until our problems are resolved, any
thought of acquiring short term political gain from them.